AMA Vice President, Dr Choong-Siew Yong, today said the AMA's recent call for a nation-wide early childhood intervention program has been boosted by the findings of Griffith University and Mission Australia's worthy Pathways to Prevention Project.
The report, released today, demonstrated that pre-school intervention programs improved children's communication skills, reduced difficult behaviour, and strengthened family relationships.
"Projects such as this are necessary and important, but we now need to take interventions that have been proven to be effective, and make them available to all Australian children who will benefit," said Dr Yong, a paediatric and adolescent psychiatrist.
"The Government should fully fund a national home visiting program to offer intervention to all new-born Australian babies and their families.
"There's strong evidence that home visiting programs for parents of young children can improve child behavioural problems, cognitive development, and the management of post-natal depression, and reduce accident injury rates.
"In the longer term, these programs can improve school retention rates, reduce rates of child abuse, reduce youth involvement in criminal activity and improve older children's emotional and social health."
The earlier the intervention, the more cost-effective, Dr Yong said.
"Currently, different early intervention programs are run by individual States and Territories," he said.
"Some children miss out because they're not identified as being likely to benefit, or because they don't live in a targeted area.
"They are much more difficult to help - and cost the system many more dollars - when problems emerge as they get older.
"If we support them from soon after birth, for example with home visits from a qualified nurse, we can stop the problems from happening in the first place."